Black Moods fans eagerly anticipating the release of the rock band's follow-up to their eclectic self-titled debut album will have to hold their breath a little longer. The Phoenix-based trio is tabling their upcoming album for a short time in an effort to strengthen the material, lengthen the album, and fine-tune the details. The decision came as a request from the band's new management team, Street Smart Marketing, who is working to push the group to the next level in their career.
"In the past year and a half, we've learned a lot about business," Black Moods drummer Danny "Chico" Diaz explains, "and about touring. We decided our goals were to get management, and then get a record label -- we've hit the first goal, and we have management now."
As for the Black Moods members -- guitarist/singer Josh Kennedy, bassist Ryan Prier and drummer Chico -- they have surrendered everything involved in a normal life, right down to a mailing address, in an effort to spread their music on the road as far as possible. They know the sacrifices will make the victory that much sweeter once they get their hands on the prize.
"You have to cut that out in order to make it work," Kennedy says. "If you're going to stay, you have to be willing to sacrifice all of that shit that you like doing -- like sleeping in a bed or showering and eating every day."
The Black Moods will return to the desert this weekend when they headline Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix on Saturday, August 30. Prior to their performance, Up on the Sun chatted with Josh Kennedy and Chico via video conference to get the skinny on the new record, their good Samaritan accomplishments, and working to position themselves for a long and successful career.
What were some points of emphasis for the new album that you wanted to focus on where you felt you needed to do better? Josh Kennedy: With this album, since we've been touring for the last year and a half, we got to really flush out the songs. When we wrote the first record, we pretty much wrote the songs as we were making the record. Some of those songs we now play differently live with certain intricacies and whatnot to make it work.
Now, we've played the new songs so much on the road already and I feel like they've grown more. We're going back to L.A. to finish it this week.
Chico: We have six songs done, and we're going to record five more. They are more solid. We know them better and we play them better. They really started to breathe and come into their own. Originally, we were going to release it in July, then we just started working with Street Smart Management, and they said we were going to table it for now. Basically, those six songs are done, and we're going to add to it.
JK: And that is from picking up that new management, which is good. While out touring and doing everything we're doing, we wanted to get some management and a booking agent and really take that next step. So, those guys came in and told us to come off the road, finish the record, and get our shit together to gear up for the beginning of next year.
That makes sense. I know that the last time you and I spoke, Josh, you said you guys were trying to get a grip on the business side of things. It sounds like it is going well at this point. Chico: It's going good. Definitely in the past year and a half, we've learned a lot about business and about touring. We decided our goals were to get management, and then get a record label.
We've hit the first goal, and we have management now. Don Robertson is the head of the company, and he used to run Century Media with a lot of metal bands that have done really well. Then, our day-to-day guy is Glen Parrish. He used to work with Stevie Nicks and Steel Panther and these other bands. So, they've got some traction under them. They really appreciate what we did, but then said, "Okay, you guys have got to this level, and now we're going to handle it," and it's kind of different for us.
JK: There're definitely growing pains involved [laughs].
Chico: Yeah, because we did everything. We did all the social media and all that kind of stuff and they said, "No, we're gonna handle everything -- you guys write music -- that's your job now."
JK: Which has been weird because we have always done all of those things. We wrote as well as managed ourselves, booked our shows, and all that stuff. Now, with them taking away most of the stress with booking and managerial stuff and for us to just be writing, it's been a shock to the system, you know? You feel like you're half-assing it and like, "I know there's more shit I could be doing," but now we have proper management to handle that.
Chico: We've pissed them off a few times [laughs]. We are telling them, "Hey, we want to do this and this," and they have to say, "Chill out, we're gonna do this."
JK: Chico is the liaison now because I get so frustrated, and I'm like, "I want it now." I'm an instant gratification type of fellow.
Chico: We've definitely been learning more over the past month. Next week, when we go to L.A., it's going to be really good. Not only are we going to record, but we're doing almost like a makeover. We're getting a stylist and they're going to do a photo shoot to revamp everything that we've done. It's going to be something totally new for us, but we're really excited for it.
So the pieces are falling into place. Have you guys felt any struggles with that so-called sophomore slump in making this second album? JK: No, because I think that only comes out of a label, like with your first debut release. That's where they look at that. We could keep pumping out records -- we have tons of songs. It's just a matter of filing them down for each record and deciding what fits best in this and what will fit best in that.
We're just tracking songs and picking like, "Well, this batch of songs goes well together, and these select titles flow well together." It makes a complete album that way.
Chico: It's kind of themed. Josh came up with a good theme idea from songs that he wrote and we wrote, and we're just piecing it together.
Ah, I see. So, is this like a concept album? JK: I wouldn't say "concept album." It's no Dark Side of the Moon or anything like that, but I was watching a lot of Forensic Files when I wrote the majority of the songs. A lot of them are kind of creepy and have that killer aspect to them [laughs].
Let's talk about the new music video "Say It for the Last Time". First of all, filming at a pool party with a bunch of smoking-hot women must have been a hard day of work. Chico: It was such a tough day; we didn't enjoy it at all [laughs]. No, just kidding, it was great!
I feel like it had some of the best production quality that I've seen in one of your videos with this one. Chico: Chadwick Fowler has been a buddy of ours for years, and he has just gotten really, really good. Josh and I came up with the idea for the treatment where we want to get into the party but we can't, but we find a way in.
JK: It was initially going to have a bunch of jock guys keeping us out of the party with all these hot chicks in it. It got edited down to where that kind of came out, but it still is us trying to get into a party with a bunch of hot chicks. Eventually, we get into that fucking party. [Josh says with a giant mischievous grin].
Oh, yeah, and hey, if you watch at the end, when they throw our tour manager, Nick, the dude with the dreadlocks, into the water, the girl on the left has her titties pop out! It's just for a split second! [Chico and Josh are both laughing].
Nice, I'll have to go back and re-watch it after this. JK: Yep, right when it starts fading to black.
Chico: It's a titty!
You guys had another music video earlier this year for your cover of "I Can't Dance" with a stripper in it. It seems like you have the formula down for hot tattooed women and rock music. JK: Yep, [laughs]. That was Arizona Virtual Studios that did "Hey You" and "Don't Let 'Em Get You Down".
Also, there is a different kind of video that has brought the band some notoriety -- the lost wallet video. It even received some TV news coverage right? Chico: Yeah, definitely. Everything happened pretty much the way we put it in the video. We found that wallet, and we are just good guys. We lose our shit all the time -- I lose my phone and I lose my wallet.
JK: Actually, [points to Chico] he lost his phone that night after returning the wallet to the lady that day.
Chico: And we got it back! It was like a karma thing. I think I used up all my karma in that week alone [laughs].
JK: No shit! This guy loses everything. [Looks at Chico] I think you had one shoe on by the end of that week.
Chico: But that's just how we are -- especially when I saw all the cash in it. We knew somebody really needs this. There was a lot of cash -- $200 or $300, I'm guessing.
JK: Yeah, it was only $300, but that was $500 more than we had at the time!
Chico: Mark Mayz, who does our day-to-day operations, hit up a bunch of news stations. My brother works for a news station in Atlanta and I sent it to him.
Your music has an ageless feel to it. It fits in today's sound, and I think if you would have been releasing it 40 years ago it would have fit there, too. Is there a specific audience that you target and write songs with them in mind, or do you write what speaks to you and hope they dig it? JK: Our target audience is from eight to 80. As far as writing songs to cater to anything isn't really the case. Our influences are so eclectic, from Ryan and I growing up on Merle Haggard and Creedence, to him [points to Chico] growing up on Korn, Nirvana, and Cypress Hill. It's a pretty broad range of shit, so it's just kind of what comes out. We write, and it ends up sounding like us.
Chico: In the last few weeks we had to write. Our manager was like, "Stop doing everything but writing." We like people around, and they will talk to us after a song is complete. They all say it's incredible how we write, and it's so easy. It's just what comes out, and any idea is a good idea.
JK: We've been writing in different ways now, too. As far as lyrically for me, sometimes I just start out with a line, and then a whole chorus will come to me. Now, it's kind of like I'll have unfinished sentences to where I will know what I want to say at the end of a sentence and I have to start piecing it in like Minority Report.
Chico: We're together 24 hours a day in a van, and so when we're writing his melody first we'll hear it and we'll start humming it and come up with ideas. We've written several songs in the past few weeks that way. Lyrically, he [points at Josh] used to do it all the time, but these few songs we're doing together and it's a lot of fun.
In that sense, describe to me the chemistry between the three of you that creates the Black Moods and keeps you so creative. JK: [Points to Chico] He's kind of the "shit together" guy. He's kind of got the dad thing about him.
Chico: Yeah, I'm kind of the dad with the "come on, let's get this shit going." We definitely have our own personalities, but we love each other.
JK: I'm the fit-thrower. I'm the baby of the band.
Chico: Oh, yeah, he throws tantrums, which are fun [laughs]. And Ryan is really quiet around people, but he is really funny. When he does say something, it's usually fuckin' hilarious. It's just the dynamic that we have, and it's really good.
Then, there is Nicky, our tour manager with the dreads. He is a fourth part of our band. Even though he doesn't technically play on stage, he's still a band member.
JK: Yeah, we couldn't do it without him . . . We're 13-year-old boys is what it boils down to [laughs].
Chico: Yeah, we laugh so hard, and we'll think nothing is ever going to be funnier than what just happened and the next day we'll be rolling again. That's what keeps us going; laughter.
I'm curious to hear your thoughts on what it takes to make it as a musician in this digital age of music, and even more specifically in Phoenix? Chico: Playing live. Like you just said, with the digital thing, there are so many bands out there that can't play live.
JK: Yeah, they can make great recordings in the basement, but when they go out, the band sounds like shit. There's something to be said about a group of guys who can get together and actually play their instruments while having chemistry between them. You can't put a couple guys in a room together and say, "Okay, be a band," because that's what it will sound like.
Chico: A lot of our friends that we've seen be put together are good, but the thing that stands out for us and keeps us a step above is our camaraderie as musicians. We all are talented at what we do individually, and then it comes together.
Also, from playing on tour six nights a week together, I know what he is thinking on stage and he knows what I'm thinking and the same with Ryan. I think that is what we have.
JK: We're each other's baggage. What we've found is that we're the only three guys that we can each count on to come and play music. I know that if I have an idea for a song, or if a gig pops up in two hours, I can call these guys and tell them I've got this thing.
Where other people might be like, "Well, I have this, and I've gotta talk to the wife, or how much is it paying."
Chico: As far as Phoenix goes, I haven't been able to go see a show in months, if not a year. So, a lot of the scene going on right now I don't really know. There's a few bands out there that I think are really good.
That is another thing that our manager told us, that for the remainder of the year, we need to hang out in Phoenix and LA to not only get better shows, but I'm going to go out and see what's going on in Phoenix. There are a lot of good venues. Wasted Grain just opened up again at Martini Ranch, where we'll be playing in November.
Are you guys at a point where your music and merchandise is funding your musical life? JK: Yeah, this is all we do. With being on the road, and the costs to be out, we don't even eat, really. We put the money back in for sticks and strings before we will have a burger and fries.
Chico: Really, none of us have an address anymore. We have a place where our mail goes, but our actual address is E-350 Econoline, Ford Drive, USA [laughs]. We did all of that on purpose, though. All our bills are very minimal, so it doesn't take a lot for us to live.
JK: It's like that Christmas cartoon where they are cutting up the one bean for everyone with the violin playing. That's another part of it that you have to be willing to do. If you're going to stay, you have to be willing to sacrifice all of that shit that you like doing -- like sleeping in a bed or showering and eating every day. You have to cut that shit out in order to make it work. You get used to having all this stuff and being comfortable.
Chico: You just have to sacrifice everything. From the people who we know personally who have made it in this business all say, "Anything you like, get rid of it right now." That just makes the prize so much better when we win. We're willing to sacrifice everything.
We look at this like a business, and now that we have management, they can help us with that plan. That's what we want to do and be an internationally known band.
More than that, it's important to me that my song or our song changes somebody's life or puts them in a good mood, or even a bad mood, that's awesome; as long as it does something to them.
JK: We want people to be sad to our songs, and also have sex to our songs.
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